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Pennsylvania trooper's link to Roethlisberger was open secret

Sunday, June 13, 2010
 

MILLEGEVILLE, Ga. -- When Georgia Bureau of Investigation detectives and Milledgeville police began to untangle the testimony snarling a rape investigation involving Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they found a tricky knot linking the troubled quarterback to the Pennsylvania State Police.

Pennsylvania State Police recruiter Edward Joyner's work as Big Ben's bodyguard -- while outlawed by police regulations -- was an open secret and "treated kind of like a joke" when other troopers ribbed him about it, according to GBI agents who interviewed his supervisors.

The mandated form that granted Joyner permission to work for Roethlisberger in 2005 came allegedly with the forged signature of the gatekeeper, now-retired Lt. Col Cynthia Transue.

"I can say with all certainty that the signature is not mine. I do not know who signed my name," said Transue, a former state police whistleblower best known for refusing to shred internal documents when higher officials ordered her to do so.

While moonlighting as Roethlisberger's travel agent, contractor, dry cleaning deliveryman, personal shopper, car detailer and valet, Joyner racked up more overtime than almost any other trooper -- 602 hours and about $30,000 in 2009.

Joyner is fighting to stay employed by the Steelers' star. Lt. Col. John R. Brown rescinded permission April 15, three days after the district attorney here announced he would not prosecute Roethlisberger, 28, for the incident March 5 at Capital City nightclub.

The decision to revoke permission for Joyner to moonlight triggered a grievance by the Pennsylvania State Police Troopers Association in Harrisburg.

"The department had no problem with Ben Roethlisberger and Ed Joyner when everything was going fine, when Trooper Joyner was helping them gain access for functions and even arranging for personal events with him," said union President Bruce A. Edwards. "Now they say they didn't know about all that• They totally knew, and they used him for their own purposes. The same people now want to tar-and-feather him and hang him out to dry."

In preparation for Joyner's upcoming hearing, Edwards said the union located a card from a high-ranking state police executive -- since retired -- thanking the trooper for autographed gifts.

The Tribune-Review tried to ask Harrisburg officials to list any gratuities they might have received from Roethlisberger or other Steelers and about Transue's authorization. Spokeswoman Lt. Myra Taylor told the Trib to submit questions in writing.

On June 1, Taylor said in a formal statement that they "involve internal or administrative matters, and that is where those issues shall remain in discussion."

Edwards is seeking a modified employment agreement that allows Joyner to keep working for Roethlisberger, with clear guidelines about his duties and no unnecessary pressure from high-ranking officials for favors. Joyner declined to comment.

Milledgeville meltdown

Joyner appeared to be in good standing with the state police and superstar quarterback before the March 5 rape allegation.

Former state police Cmdr. Frank Monaco, now police chief in Plum, considers Joyner one of the finest troopers he ever commanded.

"I could depend on him for anything," said Monaco. "He looked sharp in uniform. Again, when I'm in a situation where I need something, that I'm going to need people who are dependable, I'm going to call Ed Joyner. It's just plain and simple: I call Ed Joyner."

Monaco, a former Washington barracks commander, met Joyner there in 1998. He befriended Roethlisberger seven years later.

Monaco told the Trib he never believed Joyner was Big Ben's bodyguard. But he did recall telling Roethlisberger at the Steelers' camp in Latrobe "great stuff" about his favorite trooper, never realizing that Joyner had begun working for the quarterback three months earlier.

"I would've said, 'You can't do this,' because he'd be putting me in a jam," said Monaco. "See what I mean• If I cover for this, if he's working security and I know it, then I'm going to be in trouble. And I'm not going to get jammed and lose my job because someone else is doing something. Obviously, if I had seen something, I would've taken action."

Over the next four years, Monaco said Roethlisberger visited his New Kensington home several times, including for one of his daughter's birthday parties.

Monaco is the target of a federal whistleblower lawsuit brought by retired state police Lt. James Fulmer of Bolivar. He alleges Monaco conspired to ruin troopers trying to do the right thing while furthering the careers of cronies.

He finds Monaco and other officials' collective inability to see Joyner's duties as a bodyguard "implausible."

"Could there have been one officer who was that clueless• It is plausible that one officer might not have realized what Joyner was doing. But when an entire chain of command sees nothing year after year?" said Fulmer.

Monaco denies Fulmer's allegations. His former bosses when Roethlisberger hired the trooper -- Lt. Col. Ralph M. Periandi, deputy commissioner of operations, and ex-Commissioner Jeff Miller -- contend they knew nothing about Joyner's relationship with Roethlisberger.

Miller manages special security operations for the National Football League. He has said he played no role in the NFL investigation that led to Roethlisberger's six-game suspension.

Working late

Pennsylvania regulations long have banned state troopers from "a security guard related capacity where investigative, arrest, or prosecutive action could result from the member's participation in supplementary employment."

Joyner's April 29, 2005, employment agreement claimed only that he would labor as a "driver/assistant" -- a chauffeur to football games, autograph sessions, charity events and the airport. He said he would collect "fan mail and other fan paraphernalia during autograph sessions" when not "fielding phone calls." He anticipated five to 10 hours of work weekly.

From 2005 through 2008, Joyner's overtime hours combined to pay him nearly $71,000, according to pay stubs the state police released. In 2009, Joyner earned 602 hours of overtime. A state police document states he earned $32,105 in overtime -- nearly a third of his total annual wages.

Fulmer considers Joyner to be a "decent fellow," but he termed the amount of overtime Joyner earned as "an incredible amount of overtime" that "most troopers won't see in a career, much less a year."

Georgia on his mind

Georgia detectives suspected Joyner and Coraopolis Patrolman Anthony Barravecchio were dodging questions about their relationships with Roethlisberger. They concluded both were his security guards.

Taped testimony of Joyner's interview revealed the trooper begged investigators not to "run" his name through computers. Agents told the Trib they didn't know how to take that -- was he afraid of being flagged on a criminal background check because he was a cop• Or was he concerned about his name leaking out to the press or high-ranking Harrisburg officials• Why did he and Barravecchio want to be known as "assistants"•

"Our interest in their role as bodyguards was two-fold: first, to see if they used their role as bodyguards to influence witnesses and second, to identify exactly who witnesses repeatedly referred to as bodyguards," said Tom Davis, the special agent in charge of GBI's Milledgeville station.

Detectives needed to verify whether Joyner was the person witnesses accused -- in several conflicting stories -- of blocking efforts early March 5 to rescue the woman left alone in a restroom with a quarterback dogged by an earlier rape lawsuit in Nevada. Joyner denied the allegations.

Joyner's insistence that he wasn't Big Ben's bodyguard conflicted with taped testimony from members of Roethlisberger's entourage. The initial investigating officer on the scene, Milledgeville Police Sgt. Jerry Blash, told detectives that the big, black, bald man later identified as Joyner confided to him that "a young guy trying to be a bodyguard" was a bad idea because of all the distractions from women in perpetual orbit around Roethlisberger.

An amateur video shot by Roethlisberger's entourage that night showed Joyner and the man he called his "partner," Barravecchio, seated at a table guarding the entrance to the "VIP" room.

"Joyner and Barravecchio said they were Roethlisberger's friends. But if you're at your friend's birthday party, are you sitting off to the side while everyone else has a good time• Are you sitting with your arms crossed at a table, away from everyone else?" said GBI's Davis.

Joyner admitted to Georgia authorities that he paid the bar tab for Roethlisberger's female guests, including witnesses who told police they were under the legal age to consume alcohol.

When investigators tried to give a "courtesy call any commander would want to get" to Joyner's chain of command in Western Pennsylvania, an irate Joyner phoned back, castigating them for involving the brass and telling Georgia agents to use only his cell phone number, according to GBI.

"I won't sugarcoat it. He was angry," said GBI's Marc Mansfield. "I began to realize that I had caused Trooper Joyner some grief, but I didn't mean to do it."

According to Mansfield, it seemed to him as if fellow troopers treated Joyner's relationship as Big Ben's bodyguard with humor. But Joyner continued to insist he wasn't working security.

On April 12, Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright publicly declared he didn't have enough evidence to arrest Roethlisberger for rape.

While GBI agents began compiling the investigative documents slated for public release, their Atlanta headquarters got a call from Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski. GBI's Davis sent the initial report overnight -- addressed only to the commissioner -- and completely unredacted.

Three days later, officials ordered Joyner to quit working for Roethlisberger.

 

 
 


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